It’s difficult to ask committed, enthusiastic people to stop moving forward. No-one likes to interrupt momentum.  Sometimes, however, that’s just what learning facilitators ( not lecturers!)  have to do.

We’re now 4 weeks into our Social Enterprise module and the course is fairly tight in terms of milestones and progressions. One of the most frustrating constraints of leading courses in disruptive innovation is working within the rigidities of a university system that dictates a set number of weeks per module, and a set number of learning hours per week. In an ideal world I’d run the course over a year.

Such constraints are frustrating but also demanding; it requires discipline and a commitment to the human-centred problem solving paradigm courses like ours are founded on. We have seven exciting, potentially high impact projects taking off at the moment but a few teams have tried to short-circuit the process of understanding human need in the first place, and have impatiently moved on to designing solutions (and even attempting to cost those solutions). This is perfectly understandable when you remember that university students are conditioned to foreground assessment based on the assumption that learning happens in the background of the assessment process.

Promoting “mindful” learning where every task requires immersive focus and reflexive self-discovery is the goal of entrepreneurial learning experiences, but these go against grain of higher education as it is currently designed.   Facilitators in entrepreneurial courses need to remain vigilant of the tendency to rush towards the finish line and the courage to ask people to slow down, return to the human focus of their endeavour, and reflect.  They can only really do that when they themselves remember that it is the development of the individual rather than the enterprise that matters . I could ramble on about the time horizons of learning outcomes, but I’ll spare you that!

One thought on “Seek first to understand, then create – lessons in mindful learning

  1. Great insight – thanks for sharing. My work is centred on “collaborative learning” which I define as a purposeful activity in which participants make themselves the subject of the learning as well as being active enquirers into subjects of shared interest. As you suggest – simply acquiring information without reflecting on how it relates to us as individuals and our relationships with others is largely sterile – leading to knowledge impotence! A condition in which what we know/think is disconnected from what we feel/do.

    I am pulling together a proposal for a centre for collaborative learning and in my more ambitious (and probably delusional) moments see this as a “university” in which people come together to learn about themselves and the world in which they wish to bring about positive change. Possibly a home for higher education heretics?!

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